Parshat Ki Tetze
Birds Have Feelings Too!
26 Yhwh spoke to Moshe, saying:
27 An ox or a sheep or a goat, when it is born, shall remain seven days under its mother, and from the eighth day and forward it will be accepted as a near-offering, as a fire-offering to Yhwh. And an ox or a sheep?it and its young you are not to slay (for sacrificial purposes) on one day.
6 When you encounter the nest of a bird before you in the way, in any tree or on the ground, (whether) fledglings or eggs, with the mother crouching upon the fledglings or upon the eggs, you are not to take away the mother along with the children.
7 Send-free, send-free the mother, but the children you may take for yourself, in order that it may go-well with you and you may prolong (your) days
Your Torah Navigator
1. What do the verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy have in common?
2. How do the circumstances of both texts differ?
3. Are they significant?
4. What lessons do you draw from these instructions?
5. What is the connection between sending the mother bird away and the lengthening of one?s days.
A Look At Nachmanides (commonly known as Ramban, an acronym for Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman) on the verses in Deuteronomy. When you encounter the nest of a bird before you. This commandment can be given the same explanation as the mitzvah in Leviticus 22:28: "And an ox or a sheep?it and its young you are not to slay (for sacrificial purposes) on one day".
For the reason for both these commandments is so that we will not be cruel-hearted and merciless. Or so the verse would not permit a type of slaughter that would eradicate a species, even if it permitted slaughtering an animal from this species. See that one who kills the mother and its young in one day or one who takes the fledglings without sending the mother away is like one who is cutting off this species.
In Ramban?s commentary, he mentions that Maimonides agrees and says that the verse enjoins us not to slaughter the young in front of the mother for animals also fear for their children for "mother love for the young they bear is not an intellectual phenomenon borne of speech, but it is activated from a thought process found in animals just as it is found in humans..."
Both Maimonides and Nachmanides emphasize that the commandments are given to help us improve as human beings, to refine ourselves as a holy people. It is a subtle process. On the one hand, we are allowed to slaughter animals, on the other, we are told that we are stewards of this earth and its species. The slaughtering of animals has to be regulated.
In Leviticus, we are told how the Holy One wants sacrifices, while in Deuteronomy, we are told how to behave when we happen upon a nest. Either way, the Holy One does not want the world ignored. Part of a holy consciousness is to be aware that compassion and mercy apply in some small degree to all living creatures, even those we are permitted to eat.
Some will no doubt see this as hypocritical, and will opt for vegetarianism. Nachmanides, however, sees this mitzvah as a reflection of the gray areas of sacred aspiration in a world of hard choices. Yes, the animal kingdom serves humanity and yes we have to remember our humanity even when we are permitted to take their lives. There are times when the difficult choice, the harsh one, is what may be required, but even harsh outcomes require a humane process.